This is bound to create smiles and offer a few hours of respite in a sports world starved for live action and feel-good moments.
Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson will team up to take on Rickie Fowler and Matthew Wolff in a skins game on May 17 that will be televised live from Seminole Golf Club in Juno Beach, Fla. Officially announced on Monday, the “TaylorMade Driving Relief” event features a $3 million purse provided by UnitedHealth Group—all of which will go to the American Nurses Foundation and CDC Foundation to aid in their efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic. An additional $1 million is being donated by Farmers Insurance for a birdie and eagle pool that will go to Off Their Plate, an organization that provides meals to healthcare workers.
The 18-hole match, scheduled from 2 p.m to 6 p.m. ET, will be televised by NBC, Golf Channel, NBCSN and Sky Sports. Free streaming will be available on PGA Tour Live, GOLFTV, Golfpass and Golf Channel.
“We are excited about the safe and responsible return of live golf and the opportunity to raise significant funds for those on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic,” PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan said in a statement.
The organizers said strict safety measures will be taken, including no spectators and FDA-approved testing to ensure the health and safety of the golfers and production crew. In a sign of the times, NBC golf anchor Mike Tirico will lead the commentary from his home in Michigan, while analysts Paul Azinger and Rich Lerner will join him from an off-site production facility. Commentators Steve Sands, Gary Koch and Jerry Foltz will be on the ground at Seminole, a 1929 Donald Ross design that is considered among the classics of American golf course architecture.
The participating players are all TaylorMade staff members. McIlroy and Johnson, with 38 PGA Tour wins between them, figure to be the betting favorites against two former Oklahoma State All-Americans—Fowler, a five-time Tour winner, and Wolff, the 2019 NCAA individual champion who, at 20 years old and in his third Tour start as a pro, won the 2019 3M Open in July while playing on a sponsor’s exemption.
McIlroy, the current World No. 1, said in the statement, “it’s been difficult to witness what so many are enduring over the last several weeks due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I’m excited and thankful to TaylorMade and UnitedHealth Group for making this event possible and providing us with the opportunity to show our support of those on the front lines.”
On a competitive note, the Irishman added, “Dustin and I will have a lot of fun together, and our games will fit well.”
Fowler said, “When I heard about this event, I couldn’t get involved fast enough. It’s special to be able to have an impact and raise charitable contributions through our sport and to do it with Matthew as my partner. I know how much I have missed sports, and golf especially, so to be one of the first events returning to television is very exciting.”
The TaylorMade event follows the announcement of “The Match: Champions for Charity,” which will pit Tiger Woods and Peyton Manning against Phil Mickelson and Tom Brady. TNT has been announced as the broadcast partner, but a date and venue have not been identified.
The PGA Tour hasn’t staged any competition since halting play on March 12 after the first round of the Players Championship. Official tournament play is scheduled to resume on June 11 at the Charles Schwab Challenge in Fort Worth, Texas, with the first four events of the revised slate to be played without spectators.